Votes are still being counted in the referendum held in Australia today, but the ‘No’ side are the clear winners, with the ‘Yes’ side – including Australia’s Left-wing Prime Minister – having conceded defeat. Australians were asked whether the constitution should be amended to create a ‘voice’ in Parliament for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, although the ‘Yes’ side has done a poor job of explaining how this would work in practice. The Sydney Morning Herald has more.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has called for a “new national purpose” to tackle Indigenous disadvantage after a resounding defeat for the Voice, with 59% of voters rejecting the proposal at Saturday’s referendum.
The campaign for change gained only 41% of the national vote and lost in every state after years of debate over constitutional reform, igniting claims from the Yes camp that its rivals engaged in lies to fool the electorate.
Albanese took responsibility for the result but told voters he was a “conviction politician” who honoured his promise to Indigenous leaders to embrace the Voice and take it to a referendum.
“This moment of disagreement does not define us and it will not divide us,” he said.
“We are not Yes voters or No voters, we are all Australians. And it is as Australians, together, that we must take our country beyond this debate without forgetting why we had it in the first place.” …
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton blamed Albanese for the failure and said voters should be frustrated with the Prime Minister for asking them to vote for the Voice without giving them details about how it would operate.
Dutton committed to an audit of spending on Indigenous programs and a royal commission into child sexual abuse in First Nations communities.
“Australians were always going to reject a proposition which divided us into different categories,” he said.
Worth reading in full.
For an explanation of why ‘Yes’ lost, see this piece by Fraser Nelson in the Spectator.
Jacinta Nampijinpa Price has just given an extraordinary speech, saying this was a vote against the “gaslighting, bullying and intimidation” that the No supporters have been subjected to. The vote was a rejection of the idea that Australia has an original sin to absolve. “We are absolutely not a racist nation,” she said. “When we kept asking questions. We weren’t receiving any answers whatsoever.” The No side was accused of misinformation, she said, but Yes ran “a campaign of no information”. The gap Australia needs to worry about is not between indigenous and non-indigenous people, she said: the Aboriginal middle classes “are doing very well for themselves”. The gap to focus on, she said, is that between the most marginalised and everyone else.
“My family experienced three funerals yesterday. My family are sitting in communities where they have been exploited for someone else’s agenda – and this campaign is another case of that,” she said, adding that claims that 80% of indigenous Australians supported the Voice were just nonsense. “The Australian people were misled and the Australian people say this for themselves.” It’s time, she said, to stop heeding “academics from the inner cities” to work out what social change is needed.
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: The right-of-centre National Party has won the New Zealand election, ousting Jacinda Arden’s Labour Party from power. The BBC has more.